We need a wide range of nutrients for us to stay healthy. Of course, we want to cut the cake and eat it too, so we want to eat something healthy and that’s actually tasty. Where do we find that? Well, we only need to look to the ocean and see that it’s replete with such kind of food – shellfish.
Shellfish can be categorised into two: crustaceans and mollusks. Crustaceans include crab, lobster, and shrimp; mollusks include clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops.
One reason why shellfish are good for us is that they are generally low in saturated fat. Saturated fat increases blood cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of developing heart disease. On the other hand, shellfish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer a wide range of health benefits – from improving your risk factor for heart disease to fighting depression and anxiety.
Our body needs protein for various processes, such as energy production and tissue repair. Meat such as beef and pork are high in protein, but they also tend to be high in saturated fat. Since shellfish are high in protein and low in saturated fat, they are a healthy alternative to meat.
Shellfish also provide many key minerals, such as iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc, which are not readily available in many other foods.
Shrimps are particularly high in iodine, which is needed for normal physical and cognitive development. On the other hand, iodine deficiency can result in mental slowness, weight gain, and increased blood cholesterol, among others. It is also associated with goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck. Mussels and oysters are a great source of iron. It plays an important role in the production of haemoglobin and myoglobin, which carry oxygen in the blood. Low iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which is associated with fatigue, headaches, problems with memory and thinking, and restless legs syndrome. Shellfish as a whole are a great source of selenium. It is an antioxidant -- it helps reduce oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and heart disease.
Oysters are particularly rich in zinc – eating half a dozen will give your daily requirement of the mineral. It is essential for boosting your immune system, protecting you from infections and diseases. It also has a positive impact on fertility. On the other hand, zinc deficiency slow wound healing, loss of appetite, and abnormal taste and smell. Crab meat and shrimps are great sources of zinc, too.
What about cholesterol?
One of the arguments against eating shellfish – especially shrimps – is their cholesterol content. As with many other animal foods, they contain cholesterol, but that does not necessarily mean that they are bad for your health. The amount of cholesterol from our food that goes into the blood is small – the liver produces much of the cholesterol in the blood. In fact, herbivorous mollusks such as clams and scallops have plant sterols, which help reduce cholesterol absorption. But of course, as with many other types of food, moderation is key.